Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Oxfam Trailwalker Review

So it's been a couple busy weeks, but I promised a recap of my impromptu involvement in the Oxfam 100km event. I was a last minute replacement for Sam, as he tore his meniscus just a couple days earlier while doing yard work. Moral of the story is don't do yard work before a big event. Or if you do, know a nutter that is willing to push and punish their body in case the unfortunate happens.

So Friday afternoon, I was picked up by Sam, Lin (wife), and  Qing (daughter, who provided lots of laughs) and driven to Kinloch to meet up with the rest of the team. On the drive down, I was asked some of the most off the wall questions, but then again from the mind of a 6 year old they were probably normal. Some are as a follows: Are there spies in the US? Are you an adult? (My response was how old do you think I am? Hers was 39. Sam is turning 40 shortly so it makes sense that we would be the same age.) Have you ever been to Paris? (My response was, Yes back in 2001 and she responded that was 14 years ago.)

Predicted timeline
So Team Scrambled Legs officially consisted of Rick, Csaba, Marcus, and myself. And the extended team includes our amazing support crew which was made up of the injured Sam, Kirsty, Lin,and Helen. There was also baby Charlie and Qing who tagged along to the event. These guys were a huge comfort to the us, knowing that they were there taking care of everything around us at the Check Point (CPs) so we could totally focus on preparing ourselves mentally & physically for the next leg. There is no way we could have transitioned as fast as we did without your help. To reiterate, these people were vital to us finishing the event, as they provided much needed emotional and physical support, as well as transporting gear throughout the day. Within the CPs, they set up individual aid stations next to the vehicles with our gear set out, refilled water bladders, worked as a gopher for hot beverages, and set up protection from rain and wind during the evening while we changed socks, ate some food, and took care of our bodies.

We arose in good spirits and ate a hearty breakfast (I had 2 pb&j sandwiches and an orange) and drank some fluids prior to having Sam drop us off at the start for our 7am start time. This meant we got up at just after 5am. It was a brisk morning with a creeping sunrise, which was roughly at 7:14am. I started off wearing my headlamp, but it went back in the pocket after a couple minutes. As it just wasn't dark enough. At least we weren't in the 6am wave which would have been pretty dark and a very early morning. Prior to going to sleep, we put the finishing touches on the gear we thought we would need for the first 21km and what gear we would need at CP2, as we wouldn't see our support crew at CP1. There were 2 CPs that support crew were unable to access, so you had to double up on supplies to make it through or be at the mercy at what the CP had to offer. I typically carry all my needs, but at the 2nd non-crewed aid station I felt like having something else to eat as I was eating a lot of pb&j. I ended up getting a jam sandwich and was disappointed as I thought she had said ham. Nothing like 2 pieces of bread and a heap of jam. Nothing like a huge sugar rush.

So what did I carry? I had a 2 litter water bladder, 2 450ml bottles, 100g pouch of biltong, 1 pouch of baby food, 100g of trail mix, long sleeve technical shirt, wool hat, polyprop gloves, chap stick, small bottle of electrolyte pills, SPOT tracker, Quick-eze for muscle cramps, head lamp, baby wipes and hand sanitizer, first aid kit, spare socks, and a rain jacket. My nutrition fluctuated throughout the day, but I definitely ate 8 pb&j sandwiches at the CPs. I then nibbled on baby food pouches, biltong, trail mix, and dried apples on the trail.  After 38km, I started to use my hiking poles as I knew my lack of training would start to play up. I didn't notice myself using them really until the darkness enveloped us and then after I tweaked my knee. It was about the time that I started eating a few salted caramel and root beer gels.

What was the game plan? The image above was the game plan. We planned on averaging 6km an hour, so we could take a 10 minute break at most CPs and do a couple minute stretch at about half the distance of each leg. This would let us average 5km an hour for the event. We blitzed the first four CPs coming in well ahead of schedule. We were looking to bank some time for later as we knew our pace would decrease as night and fatigue set in. We also extended a couple of the other CPs in order to tend to our bodies and reset mentally. I would categorize this as a very mentally challenging event. We definitily could have made it more of a physical event. We only walked the course while the winners did it in just under 13 hours.

The early morning was spent talking and passing/getting passed by other teams. We had a strategy of hitting the flats and downhill sections fairly hard and easing up on the climbs as not everyone was strong at them. We were treated with being passed by the Jamaican Bob Sled Team at the start. Ok, it was just four runners decked out in costumes. While waiting for the port-a-johns they were even sporting yellow helmets. I believe they finished 2nd for the day at just over 13hrs. I kept remarking that this would soon be my neighborhood and that I couldn't wait to finish riding all the trails. While training for Mountain Man, I broke my front wheel while descending on the K2K trail after about 5kms and didn't get to ride the rest of it as I had to drive into Taupo to by another. To say there was a fair amount of jealously on the team would be an understatement. I'm sure our new place will see plenty of guests. Rick, Csaba, and I all imagined ourselves riding the trails at speed while we walking the trails. This started off Whangamata Road on private land and then joined the K2K trail into Kinloch before heading out on the W2K trail.

It seems that every team was utilizing mobile communications to organize support crews. Or maybe just update their FaceBook or Twitter status and we were no different. We would text when were were X km out of the CP, allowing for the crew to get there and get setup prior to us arriving. The first one didn't go off as planned, but we still ended up getting our gear sorted before pushing on to the next leg. It didn't go off as planned as we were well ahead of our planned ETA.

This was the first time that I used race services during the race. On hand were AUT podiatry and massage students. Marcus got his feet strapped up at CP4 as his arch was hurting him. We both got a 5 minute rub down there as well. My left calf would start to tighten and threaten to cramp for the rest of the event. At CP7, we stripped our bags to be as light as possible as we were 13km from finishing and didn't need to bring unnecessary gear. We got massages, blisters popped and taped, and some warm beverages before setting out to finish this little trail walk. Prior to CP7, my little toes started to get hot. I ended up getting them looked at. They commented that my feet were in really good shape. I had only 1 real blister at this point and 2 hot little toes. I have calluses on both them, but he taped up the right one as it might blister. I ended up getting a blister after taping it and another formed on the ball of my right foot. Overall not that bad. They said they had seen a lot worse. I attribute this to my lack of training for the event. Also my ribs didn't play up as I didn't ever have labored breathing which was a good thing. During the massage, the guy commented that these were some rugby legs. I replied that I never played rugby. He then asked how I got such big legs. I said, soccer, riding, running, etc. All the while he is doing some deep and aggressive massaging. He was drilling my hamstring and calf with his elbow. While some girl that also attended my feet rubbed the other. Lets just say that I only felt one of them. He ended up thanking me for giving him such a good workout.
Post race feet

With the short break, we were revitalized and started off with a 9min  km followed by an 8min km. Was this pace going to last? No. With 10km left, I took a little spill down a hill. After which my left knee started to audibly pop and I could feel fluid moving around my knee cap. It was very painful and I slowed right down. Marcus was also shuffling along. While, Rick had hurt his right leg early in the evening and was walking differently. He got it taped up at CP7 and seemed better except for the down and up hill portions. Which the organizers through as many as they could at you. Csaba seemed unphased by the event, but that could have my fog of pain skewing the reality of it.

The day was remarkable and there was a lot of joking early on with other teams as we kept playing leap frog. One team we even started to play tag you're it with. Unfortunately, that didn't last. During the evening morale dropped, fatigue set in, injuries and stumbles occurred. I pushed well past my longest self powered day ever of 45km. The others had trained to 73km leaving just over a half marathon of uncharted territory. Yes, I have done several endurance events, but one solidly of walking/slight jogging at times was completely new. We all pushed through the pain and discomfort to finish the event. We were greeted by most of the support crew. Sam was missing as he waiting in the warm car as he estimated we would take a little longer to finish.

We finished after 23:17. We staggered across the line in pairs, well, soon to be 1 yr old, Charlie was picked up by Marcus who finished Csaba, a stride behind Rick and I. We all got a ceramic finishers medal. We got a free drink. Some had beer. Others had lemonade. We got a team photo. We got a team and support crew photo. We got massages. We drove back to the bach. We slept. We ate. We showered. We ate some more. We slept more. We drove back to Auckland. We plan on being back. Matter of fact, while doing the event we talked about the strategy for next year which would entail training 5-6 people.

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